The last few weeks I’ve been reading The Artist’s Way. A friend of mine suggested a group of us go through the book and support one another in doing the activities. I’ve found the book quite interesting, some of the attitude challenges have been insightful, some of the activities have been fun. I decided some were too much bother and didn’t do them, others I meant to do but haven’t yet.
One of the things I’m exploring as part of the journey is blocking activities, namely scrolling endlessly through social media while watching TV, and have taken up crochet. The first couple of test patches I was making mistakes I couldn’t yet identify, but the third one was pretty good. I’m psyching myself up to try an actual pattern, something that will be a thing, a scarf or hat perhaps to start.
The images above a sample of crochet, and two collages I put together from activities in the Artist’s Way. The book has its drawbacks, and it’s very dated in certain aspects, but overall it has been a positive experience.
I’m also continuing work on various writing projects, a sequel to a previous novel, as yet not titled, and a rewrite of a novel I wrote a few years ago. I have a friend who I’m trying to convince to co-write a screen-play, so far it’s only at the pitch stage, and I am regularly working on my poetry.
The course, as described in the book, seems to be opening up a bunch of new and interesting avenues. It will be interesting to see how long they stick around, but on the other hand I suppose it doesn’t matter. The idea of play in my art practices has been a hard one to get my head around. I’ll persevere in trying to be playful and aim for a child-like glee. I hear it’s enjoyable.
I’ve been trying to come up with a blog post for about three weeks and so far, nothing good has come to mind, so I thought I would talk about maintenance.
Maintenance is the not at all sexy stuff we do to keep things running – it’s brushing your teeth, or eating healthy or exercising (for the body), cleaning the toilet or mopping the floors, it’s practicing scales and exercises (for music), it’s showing up to write even if you don’t feel like it.
There is an argument to be made that motivation follows action, and not the other way around. One must start doing something to feel like doing it. In a way it helps, because you don’t have to wait until you feel like something to get started, but it also means I have to start before I even feel like it, which can be hard sometimes, especially if things are tough for any reason.
This week I’ve worked on my manuscript a couple of times, I’ve done piano practice most days, I’ve done yoga or a walk or the gym and in most cases I didn’t feel like it. I’m not sure if it’s winter inertia, or I’m having a particularly low energy week, but life feels hard. Getting up for work when it’s under 10˚ C is probably not helping.
Is being an adult progressively adding more maintenance tasks to your list to feel vaguely normal? In my memory I didn’t worry so much about stuff when I was younger, but maybe I’m misremembering. I feel much less fun and spontaneous – my back pain, and ankle injury and the whole pandemic thing didn’t help with that either. Maybe I’ll get back to feeling spontaneous. Maybe I’ll want to create more, rather than relying on starting an activity and hoping I’ll get into it once I’ve begun.
I had coffee with a former work colleague earlier today, though more correctly my former boss, and we had a lovely chat about life, the universe and everything (with a long detour to cults started because I recently read the Book of Revelation and wow, was that a trip, I digress). As I went back to my car to head to my exercise physiology appointment, I found I had a parking ticket. I was in a zone where I had to pay for a ticket, but I had misread the sign and assumed it was two-hour free parking, not two-hour paid parking. I was annoyed because it’s another in a long line of expenses (let’s not even get into the cost of vegetables or petrol at the moment) I have and it would have been avoidable if I’d been more careful about reading the sign. The annoyance spread through the rest of the day, something I feel might not have happened when I was younger.
I guess I’m worried I’m becoming boring and curmudgeonly and I’m not even that old! On the other hand, the world has objectively been through a very bad last couple of years, so perhaps I should give myself a bit more time to get over the trauma (and ongoing stress) of the COVID-years.
I’ve had this blog for over a decade, and I have been posting semi-regularly to it so I think I can say I’m maintaining it. Here’s to trying to find more joy in maintenance.
April is my poetry writing month, as I undertake the Na/GloPoWriMo a month-long poetry challenge initiated by Maureen Thorson on the model of NaNoWriMo. Each day Maureen presents a prompt, relating to content, or form, or sometimes both.
I have written poetry since I was an angsty teen, some of my previous work still exists on my old website, as well as in my chapbook, Smells Like Teen Angst, but I often don’t make time for it, outside of April. I’m a member of a poetry workshop/collective, and I have been workshopping poems from last year’s NaPoWriMo all the way up to the start of this year’s challenge.
I’m heading out to the northwest of Melbourne to a writers’ retreat on the weekend. I’m looking forward to the stimulation and to the potential networking opportunities. I hope that I can get value from the content, as I haven’t worked with the organisers before. If nothing else, I will try to enjoy a weekend in the country. Maybe they will have a big bath that I can relax in, or a piano.
In my life outside of writing, I’ve resigned from my day job and will be starting a new day job after Easter. I’ve been working for the same organisation for almost six years, and it feels very strange preparing to leave it now. A lot has changed over that time; I’ve had three different managers, and we’ve been moved around departments a number of times, but a lot has stayed the same too. I won’t go into too many details, but I’m both excited and a little nervous about the new role. It’s with a similar organisation doing a similar job, hopefully with some more seniority.
Many of my colleagues have expressed their gratitude for the work I do, a couple have said I can’t leave, which I assume means something similar. The relationships I’ve forged with the people there have been the highlight, and one of the reasons I’ve been able to stay on so long. I’m sorry to leave the organisation, there will be a bit of messiness in the transition to a new person in my role, but I hope they’ll be able to structure things in a way that benefits everyone.
April seems to be a time for beginnings and endings. Closing one door allows another to open, I’m feeling pumped to find out what’s on the other side of this one. I might even be inspired to put up one of my daily poems too.
I’m very excited to share with you the cover art for my two new novels: Sins of the Father, and The Mother’s Fault.
These novels follow two generations of Barrett Women: Janine and Chloe. They can be read in any order, or individually.
A reader discretion warning is in place both novels, they each deal with dark themes. Unlike my previous releases, these are not romance novels, and deal largely with dysfunctional romantic and familial relationships.
Massive thank you to Charmaine who does my covers, you are a wizard at interpreting what I want and make it into an image.
Sins of the Father
Janine Barrett is like every other fifteen-year-old—she knows it all. When her father passes away, and she’s stuck with her vindictive mother, and a shameful secret; it’s time to break out on her own.
But surviving life as an adult—juggling schoolwork, a household, and a boyfriend—is a lot harder than she thought. And that’s only the beginning.
What will she sacrifice to have it all and prove her mother wrong?
Follow Janine’s journey as she grows up from a naïve, rebellious teen in 1980s Melbourne.
The Mother’s Fault
Chloe Barrett had a tough childhood, but she’s determined not to let it limit her future. She’s got a good job, a couple of close friends, and a decent boyfriend.
She pulled herself up out of a dark childhood with an unreliable mother and her unpredictable boyfriends, but has Chloe done enough to overcome her brutal childhood and become a happy, fulfilled adult?
Follow Chloe as she tries to work out if she’s managed to catch the right kind of man this time and build her perfect life, in spite of her mother’s faults.
Both titles will be ready for purchase on 28 February 2022, pre-order links to follow.
Here we are again, the first day of a new year, 2022. I am hesitant to say I’m feeling optimistic, since the plague is still with us, and travel seems like it’s not really on the cards yet, but perhaps we will be able to do more stuff this year.
I don’t usually make new years’ resolutions, anecdotal evidence suggests that resolutions last about three weeks, if that, so having goals seems to be better in terms of being consistent. I’ve set goals for the coming year for a few years running now, it seems to work better.
My goals for 2022 are similar to my previous annual goals, but let’s call it consistency rather than unoriginality:
Publish two manuscripts (titles and covers coming soon)
Finish manuscript for Singular Focus 2 (working title)
NaPoWriMo 2022 (April)
NaNoWriMo 2022 (November)
Keep up the blog
Painting projects, including a proposal for a mural in my apartment building hallway
Wasted Monday performances*
Piano open mic performance*
The last two, as with last year, are dependent on things being open for performances, but fingers crossed we should be able to get a couple of performances in somewhere.
I would like to spend a bit less time watching TV, more time reading and doing my various projects. Habits are the best predictors of future behaviour, so if I can get into the habit of doing a bit more than rewatching crime procedurals, that’d be good.
I’ll keep working on my garden, it’s looking pretty good these days. I have some berry bushes that produce pretty well and I’ve planted a couple of tomatoes that I hopefully won’t kill before they fruit too.
There was talk we wouldn’t get a proper summer here because of La Niña but the last couple of days have been hot and sunny, so perhaps those predictions were wrong. Outdoor gatherings of a few people seem to be the way to go these days, perhaps coffee outside at a cafe or two. So I will wish you all a very Happy New Year; may 2022 be kind to you and be full of joy and just enough challenge to keep things interesting, but not enough to make you miserable.
Each year I do a little wrap up post about the last twelve months and how they’ve gone for me. 2020 was, as I’m sure it was for many of you, a shit show. 2021 started out hopeful, I went back to working in the office sometimes, I saw a couple of Melbourne Comedy Festival shows and a few band nights and gigs around town.
I even managed to get through the year without testing positive for COVID which is nice; I’m not sure I’ll be able to say the same for next year. Our case numbers are in the thousands per day, but with over 90% of the population vaccinated, it seems hopeful that we’ll be able to stay open even with new variants.
I set my expectations pretty low, after 2020 I wanted to feel confident I would tick some of them off, even if there was another long lockdown. Turns out I was right to be sceptical that our freedom would last; from May until October, we were all stuck inside again and we’re only allowed out now because of high vaccination rates.
Put on a third Melbourne Fringe Festival show (October)*
Wasted Monday performances*
I achieved all my goals, except for the Fringe Show. If I’m honest, I’m not sure I would have done a show this year even without lockdown. There is a lot of joy in putting on a Fringe show, but an enormous amount of work. I’m focussing my energy on my writing, music, and doing some painting as well. I have three murals in my apartment now and have moved on to smaller boards that can be kept or given away to friends.
I took up piano lessons late in 2020, online only at the time since we were still in lockdown then. After a little over a year, I’m enjoying playing and tinkering on the piano. I might even build a repertoire so I can do some open mic nights with the keyboard – although the keyboard’s pretty massive so transporting it will be a pain. My piano teacher has organised two small concerts in 2021 with her adult students, and I have really enjoyed having an audience again, as well as being able to play two or three gigs with Wasted Monday when we were allowed.
My work that can be done at home has been pretty consistent, I have drafted about 80k of a new novel, and I have two novels that will be ready for publication in 2021 (stay turned for title and cover reveals).
Though I did a 30k goal for NaNoWriMo, I’m counting it. It’s been a tough year and my writing practice is pretty solid, so I don’t need to rely on November to make up the lion’s share of my first draft output.
My ankle, which was smashed when I was struck by a car in January 2020, is largely recovered, though there is some long-term damage and it’s never going to be back to the way it was. The biggest issue I have nowadays is chronic back pain, likely a secondary injury from the ankle problem. I find it hard to work when I’m in pain, a sentiment I’m sure many of you share.
I’m pleased to say my relationships–with friends, family and work colleagues–have remained solid for the duration, I am so grateful to have so many fantastic people around me. Even when we couldn’t see anyone in real life, I knew you were all there, at the end of the phone or over text.
My grandmother passed in September, she was 94, so had a good run. The funeral was weird, because we were in lockdown and had only two people in the chapel, and a few more watching online. Most other things have ticked along, in some cases limped along during lockdown, but have largely survived. I feel hopeful that 2022 will be enjoyable, possibly going out of the house more often, perhaps I’ll even be able to have a holiday outside of Victoria.
I wish you all health, happiness, relaxation and fulfilment, for the next year and beyond. The next post will include my new year goals.
This year I decided to do a reduced word count goal for NaNoWriMo 2021 – I aimed for a measly 30,000 and I managed to get over 3000 more than my goal, which I was pleased with.
My writing habit has certainly improved over the ten years of NaNoWriMo participation. I feel like my drafting and editing have both developed. The most important aspect to this is the ability to do one task at a time – when drafting our critical brains need to be turned off, so the creative and possibly wild parts of the story can pour out.
The editing process is about being critical, so we want to turn off the creative brain and focus on the plot holes or weird sentences we came up with during the drafting phase.
My manuscript for Singular Focus 2 (working title) is now at over 80,000 in the first draft. I aim to have the story finished in the next month, but we’ll see how we go with all of the end of year/Christmas gatherings that seem to be happening now we’re finally allowed out of lockdown.
I have two manuscripts back from my editor that will need revisions before being published in the first half of next year. I wasn’t game to look at the scope of suggestions the editor made while doing NaNo so I’m not sure exactly when the books will be released. I also haven’t settled on titles for either of them, which is a bit of a problem!
Summer here in Melbourne has kicked off with a bang, we had thunderstorms this afternoon. Who knows what the weather will do, or what the new COVID-19 variants will be, but I’m hopeful I’ll be out seeing friends, catching gigs, and generally making merry. I look forward to some new release announcements soon, in the meantime, take care of yourselves.